'We are, maybe, the only creatures who are intimately aware of the fact that we're going to die, even when death is not imminent. We know death is a fearful thing. But other creatures fear it when it is there: a big gaping jaw is about to eat them. We humans will just be sitting, and all of a sudden we might go, "Oh shit, I'm going to die"' (Maurizio Cattelan, quoted in B. Casavecchia, 'I Want to Be Famous-Strategies for Successful Living', pp. 132-39, in F. Bonami, N. Spector & B. Vanderlinden (eds.), Maurizio Cattelan, London 2000, p. 138.)
Cattelan is a joker and a tragedian, a manipulator of laughter who drives us towards all too modern epiphanies. While his methods are flippant, his messages are seldom simple, and this is nowhere more evident than in the various works that involve taxidermied animals. Cheap to Feed is one of a small group of unique sculptures that Cattelan created that would occasionally be left in discreet parts of his exhibitions. At first appearing to be a 'real' dog, it is only on closer inspection that the viewer becomes aware that this dog is lifeless. There is no breath, no movement, no warmth.
On the one hand, this brings into play the whole nature of art and representation. As a sculpture, Cheap to Feed undeniably resembles its original. It blurs the lines between reality and art, a timeless theme older than Pygmalion. But Cheap to Feed also plays to another tradition, that of the memento mori. For what is more revealing of the fickle nature of life than an animal from which life has departed? At once a witticism and a disturbing revelation, Cheap to Feed is an intimation of mortality that combines the uncanny with Cattelan's legendary sense of humour.